A past Sars-Cov-2 infection, an unbalanced diet, stress, gut dysbiosis, a large use of medicines, overweight, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle and cigarette smoke. These are some of the causes that can ignite inflammation in our body with possible damage, even very serious. Today let's see what our weapons are to counteract the harmful effects of inflammation. And the advice is truly within everyone's reach because it involves including some particularly protective foods in our daily diet. But let's try to understand better by analyzing a very recent review published in the journal Nutrients thanks to a collaboration between American, Iranian and Polish scientists (Surma et al, Nutrients, June 2023).
Inflammation, what it is, what it is for and what the causes are
Inflammation is the defense tool, with which our body reacts to threats, such as infections from bacteria, viruses or toxins. But if the inflammation does not go away once the threat is overcome, but persists, perhaps at low levels and without symptoms, then one of the most powerful tools that our body has to guarantee its survival becomes a double-edged sword. In fact, chronic, low-grade inflammation, which continues over time and acts silently, is actually causing serious damage and laying the foundations for the development of pathologies, even important ones. In particular, possible long-term effects of chronic inflammation are diseases of the oral cavity such as periodontitis and gingivitis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, depression, dementia, rheumatic diseases and tumors. In the introduction we saw that it is easy to develop a state of chronic inflammation as there are several factors that can contribute to nourish it, such as eating or sleeping badly, experiencing very stressful periods, an alteration of the intestinal microbiota also called intestinal dysbiosis, smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages in excess, leading a sedentary lifestyle, taking medicines and contracting infections, such as the flu but also Sars-Cov-2. Hence the importance of understanding how it is possible to reduce inflammation in a simple and affordable way for everyone, for example by using nutrition.
Foods that turn off chronic inflammation
The review we are talking about today analyzed and compared the results of previous studies in order to show which foods can be used in the fight against chronic inflammation. But what are the nutrients and related anti-inflammatory foods? In first place, thanks to the large number of studies conducted on humans which testify to their undoubted effectiveness against inflammation, we find red yeast rice and omega 3 fatty acids, the latter contained in fatty fish such as anchovies, tuna and salmon, but also in walnuts, flax seeds and green leafy vegetables. Next, the research indicates flavonoids, such as carvacrol from oregano, epigallocatechin 3 gallate from green tea and quercetin from apples, berries and onions, but also soybeans, especially in the fermented version as can be found in the miso dressing, and curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. The anti-inflammatory action of these substances has been proven by fewer studies than red yeast rice and omega 3 fatty acids. However, all studies were conducted on humans. Finally, barberry berberine and garlic follow. Instead, as far as bergamot and lupins are concerned, the data available are few and come from in vitro studies, therefore the review places these foods at the bottom of the list of anti-inflammatory foods, the effectiveness of which is doubtful.
Chronic inflammation is a condition that needs to be tackled, in order to avoid diseases and disorders that involve the entire body in the long term. Nutrition can do a lot to help us and hence the importance of including, in a healthy and balanced diet, some foods such as fatty fish, seeds and nuts, some drinks such as tea, especially green, but also fruit and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, onions, apples and berries, and finally spices and aromatic herbs such as oregano and turmeric.